Wild Daughters by Phyllis Meredith
Wild Daughters was inspired by my own deep, inner knowing that we are part of nature; the trees are in our lungs, the rivers flow through our veins. Who we are at our core is reflected in the dappled sunlight on the forest floor, the in mud oozing between our toes, the brilliance of the river rushing over stone, the papery bark of a birch tree. There is a strong movement these days to “get back to nature”. We have found a true correlation between time spent in nature and stronger mental and physical health. What I think we are missing is that fact that we do not just need to “go out into nature” we need to reconnect with the fact that *we are nature*. We are just as much a part of nature as the deer, the rivers, the trees…
With the growing awareness that immersion in the raw, natural world helps combat stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other modern ailments, while simultaneously increasing our mental and physical wellbeing, we have begun to see more images portraying children in nature. It is common to see images of boys making bows and arrows, all covered in mud, tracking wild animals, building fires, jumping in puddles barefoot. Little girls are sometimes portrayed muddy and connecting with nature, but at the crucial and tender dawn of adolescence and through the teen years, we lose our girls. Where are all the images of tween and teen girls really immersed in nature? Where are the barefoot girls learning tracking skills, learning which wild plants are edible, carving with knives, building fires and harvesting wild edibles? Teen magazines and a bombardment of unrealistic media ideals guide our girls away from their own self-understanding, from their natural, unfettered beauty. They forget. We need images of strong girls doing real things in nature.
It was not that long ago that girls and woman were revered for their earth skills; their ability to find wild edibles, to mix up herbal medicines, to know the rhythms of the earth, to track wild animals, to swim and cleanse in the wild rivers. As we push for girls’ rights in the world, we still do not teach knife skills, or fire building. We shy away from these skills and believe girls who know how to make a functional bow and arrows, or a burn out bowl or spoon “march to their own beat”. But truly, girls and woman hold a special place in the rhythm of the natural world. The more we “remember” this, the more we celebrate our girls’ inner earth mother, the healthier they and the world will be. Indeed we call our globe Mother Earth for a reason, let us celebrate and remember this. The sad truth is that for some reason we limit girls access to their wild selves. While we fight for their right to play on the boy’s football and hockey teams, to have equal rights in the work force… we miss the crucial point of supporting and encouraging their wild selves.
In this series the girls show strength, competence, happiness, contentment, and a true connection to the natural world. This connection is empowering; it leads to a self-confidence and a self-reliance that was once so natural it was not even spoken about. If we allow our girls to remain the wild and free spirit they actually are, naturally engaged in wilderness activities, making fires, building their own shelters… maybe more girls will see that there are alternatives to the impossible and unnatural standards portrayed in the media, and feel a sense of personal empowerment.
Imagine if every girl had the power and confidence to build their own shelter, climb into the embrace of a majestic tree, simultaneously get lost and find their way in the wilderness with little more than a compass and the sky to guide them. It is my hope that our tweens and teens and women of any age can once again experience the joy of mud squishing between their toes and not feel societal pressure to squeal and say “yuck!”.
It is beginning to dawn on us as a society, as scientists, and as artists, that we need to “get back to nature!” While this new trend, the push to connect with nature as a source of healing and vitality is a step in the right direction, I believe we are missing the point. Seeking a connection or experience with nature implies our separateness from nature, reinforcing the alienating and dualistic notion that we are human beings, living on the earth, rather than an expression of nature itself. More than a belief, I know that we are not separate from nature… We are nature, nature is us. Wild Daughters was born from that knowing, and from a desire to capture the critical need for us to remember who we are. To re-member, to move from our disembodied, shattered experience of the world, and know we are whole.
Let’s allow, encourage, teach, our girls to remain the powerful and beautiful spirits they actually are…and fully own their truth. Strong. Wild. Free!